Tria (front) and Venugopal.
AN urban legend has it that a onetime minister who enjoyed a hilarious Instant Cafe Theatre show jokingly asked the comedic troupe if “they were scared of Kamunting”, a discreet reference to the detention centre for the subversive in Taiping, Perak.
Amerul (left) and Bob.
As an answer to his question, the Cafe’s latest offering, Kurang Manis, recently began with this announcement: “All characters portrayed are purely fictional, including those with an uncanny resemblance to VIPs”.
Kurang Manis, staged at The Actors Studio in Kuala Lumpur from Oct 29 to Nov 2, marked the return of the stand-up troupe which excels in parodying Malaysian political life after a four-year hiatus.
Focusing on “the last days, the new dawn, the final hiccup and the never-ending story”, Kurang Manis starred both the old and brand new.
Newcomers Alex Subryn Luis, Amerul Affendi, Ayam (Fareed Jamaluddin), Azrul Zaidi, Chew Kin Wah, Gan Hui Yee, Tria Aziz, Zahiril (Bob) Adzim and Zalfian Fuzi joined veterans Jo Kukathas, Shanthini Venugopal, Edwin Sumun and Maya Tan Abdullah in parodying the latest developments in the politics of Bolehland, in the Cafe’s trade-mark, no-holds-barred style.
Kurang Manis centred on daily life in the “new, post-March 8” Bolehland where its voters wait for “the next explosive instalment” while indulging in various local pastimes: shooting crows, playing mahjong, holding candlelight vigils for detainees and bloggers, and logging onto the Internet to find out what is going on (be they fact or hearsay).
This time, the Cafe’s team combined its vintage sketches and pop parodies with screenings of, among others, a Pacman video game and transcripts of a cyber-chatroom conversation.
The cleverly-done video game substituted the Pacman character with that of a prominent cabinet minister and the “monsters” with that of an opposition MP and a blogger icon.
Alex, better known as rock singer Ryn, and Audition champion Tria, made full use of their musical talents to dish out brilliant parodies of Hotel California, Besame Mucho and Mamma Mia!, which ribbed most major political and public figures, to a roaring crowd.
In their musical acts, they were more than assisted by seasoned veterans Venugopal, Maya, Kukathas and Sumun.
Tria proved that she was cut-out for stand-up comedy in the acts Dial A Bomoh, which poked fun at bomoh and makers of porn VCDs, and Alternative Clinic, which parodied, among others, sodomy allegations, the Bersih rally and fiction-writing in a leading Bahasa daily.
Azrul of Raja Lawak fame also shone at portraying “gatecrashers” or “spoilers” in most of the sketches. He was natural as a “tear-gasser” in Alternative Clinic, and the perfect foil to Chew’s “sucker-upper” in Crow Hunters, a tale of two politically-inclined crow shooters from City Hall.
Amerul and Bob, who first attained fame in the Cafe’s acclaimed play Air Con written by Shanon Shah, showed their hilarious out-of-this-world side in Da Bomb, a sketch about a “suicide bomber for hire” company headed by two Taliban wannabes.
The duo were joined by Gan of Animal Farm fame, who was irritatingly entertaining as a depressed grandmother who wanted to “go off with a bang”.
Bob, whose villain character in Kami – The Movie has been noted as one of the year’s most despicable, also stole the show as a man afflicted by political sloganeering in Alternative Clinic, and an effeminate coffee boy in the showcase’s crowning sketch, The Return of the Toymaker.
Long-locked Ayam did great, too, as the Malaysianised version of Narnia’s lion king, Aslan, in The Return of the Toymaker, and a kris-wielding Hang Tuah wannabe in Da Bomb.
Of the veterans, Kukathas made full use of her classic “nasty minister” disguise to whip up a crazy and zany interview session with Sumun.
She also shined as a “nasty judge” who made life hell for an idealistic lawyer played by Zalfian, and the creepy and menacing Toymaker in The Return of the Toymaker.
Sumun proved to be the gang’s “master of disguise”. He portrayed, to the delight of the audience, roles as diverse as a gorgeous model, a sleepy emperor, a permanently sick patient and case-fixing politician.
Instant Cafe Theatre turns 18 this year, and its latest stand-up act shows it remains the king in political parodies.
New Straits Times